When I was little, I had imaginary playmates. I talked to them. They followed me around. I was never lonely because I had friends who understood me. After I started school, my shadow friends left, never to return. More accurately, they consolidated and acquired a more sophisticated persona.
“They” became a “she.” My narrator. And she as been with me my entire life. A companion for sure, but also a “shadow me.” She sits on my shoulder and almost never shuts up. Whatever has gone wrong in my life, I can blame it on the narrator. It’s all her fault.
My narrator remembers everything. She fills in my back story. Technically, I’m in charge of my life, but sometimes, I wonder. My narrator seems to know what will happen before I do. She never stops telling my story.
She is my third person perspective on life — as I live it in real time. I’m so accustomed to her running commentary, that during her brief silences, I become alarmed by her absence. She is so much a part of how I make sense of life (the universe and everything, thank you Douglas Adams), I’m unsure whether or not I could understand anything much without the accompanying narration.
As long as I can remember, my narrator — who is me but not me — has had no name except maybe a form of mine. She is writer-Marilyn. She has a job. To fill the gaps in my story. To add “he said” and “she said.” To describe the things people do. Sometimes supply a little mood music, suggest changes to the script, and scenery. She “fictionalizes” reality.
My unreal pal distracts me and has no respect for “the moment.” No respecter of persons either, she will make me laugh precisely when I shouldn’t. Over the years, she has gotten me into trouble with bosses, teachers, spouses, and complete strangers. I can hardly explain it’s not me laughing at them … it’s that damned narrator.
Despite the perils of the relationship, I’ve learned a lot from my nameless friend. She has taught me to view life as an endless story with chapters, back stories, hilarity, weird characters, strange coincidences, tragedy, romance, hope, and despair. Because she weaves the story lines together into the epic of my life, I have a better world view, a more cohesive vision of how I fit into the fabric of others’ existences — and how other people fit into mine.
She complicates my life and at the same time, simplifies it.
My only job is to follow the script, even when it makes no sense, and to fix the typos when I spot them. My narrator takes care of the rest.
The World Series starts tonight! In your own life, what would be the equivalent of a walk-off home run? (For the baseball-averse, that’s a last-minute, back-against-the-wall play that guarantees a dramatic victory.)
We are baseball fans, so when you mention baseball and walk-off home run in one breath, David Ortiz rises before my eyes. I know the Sox aren’t in it this year, but it’s been an interesting baseball season with last year’s first place Sox become this year’s solidly last place Sox. How did they do that? How do you take a winning team and become the biggest losers in just one year? Without major lineup changes or something weird happening with the owners? I don’t get it.
Back to earth. At this point, my walk-off home run would be a multi-faceted project involved a magic remedy to alleviate arthritis, regenerate missing body parts and internal organs, and winning a big payout on a lottery ticket which I suppose I’d to actually buy, something I keep forgetting do. I used to buy tickets, but during the past year, I never seem to have cash when I am someplace that sells tickets.
These days, I’d be a happy camper if I could get a night’s sleep and wake free from pain. One day a week. To have the calcification of my spine stop getting worse, even if it won’t get better. To have enough money to buy an all-wheel drive vehicle to get me out of the driveway when it snows.
Mind you, I’m not unhappy. Despite everything, I find life engaging, entertaining, amusing, satisfying. Fun. I’ve had to find new things to enjoy, but everyone has to adapt. We change, the world changes. Unless you want to be one of the people who sits around griping about the “good old days” and how nothing is as like it used to be, we all have to find new stuff to enjoy and new ways to do it. It merely takes some determination … and creativity.
Finite Creatures – At what age did you realize you were not immortal? How did you react to that discovery?
I am not sure I ever thought I was immortal — probably because I didn’t think about it at all. Until sometime in college, I did not ponder the nature of life and death.
College was a peak time for that kind of mental muck-raking. Was it the drugs? No, I’m inclined to think it was going to classes. You see, college presents no danger unless you actually attend lectures and stuff. If you just hang out on the quad, it’ll be okay. But I took courses like “The Philosophy of Religion” and went to lectures on Phenomenology. And, I had a steady assignment of existential novels to read by Sartre, Camus, et al. Deep stuff. The kind of books I totally won’t look at any more.
That this hyper-intellectual phase of my life coincided nicely with my first actual near-death experience was pure chance. It didn’t improve my personality, that’s for sure. There is nothing more aggravating than a teenage college student contemplating the philosophical meaning of life. And death. Had I not already been me, I would have had to expel myself as a punishment for being so annoying.
I’m pretty sure all of us thought we were very smart and had a solid grip on the life and death stuff. Even adding on my botched spine surgery — which nearly killed me for real and all — I was still an obnoxious wise-ass with an inflated sense of my intellectual prowess.
Things have really improved. Now I’m an aging senior citizen wise-ass. Oh, and I am pretty sure — not 100%, but maybe 90% — I am not immortal. Eventually, I’ll know for 100% certain.
I’ll get back to you on that.
It was one of Those Days. Started out normal. We had to get up a bit early because I had a doctor appointment and even though we left plenty of time, we got out of the house a bit late. Time slipped away.
My appointment went fine. Next stop? Grocery store.
We couldn’t get to the store. There had been a fire. Or something. The street was closed. Not the whole street, just the couple of hundred feet in front of the parking lot. Other than the fire engine with the flashing lights, there was no hint of a fire, or any evidence of anything. No smoke. No injuries. No water on the street. No crime scene tape. A blocked street where we needed to go. They were allowing cars to drive through from the other direction. So there was no legitimate reason we couldn’t go a few dozen feet to Hannaford’s parking lot. But nope, we had to take the detour.
Uxbridge not being a real city, a detour isn’t a quick trip around a city block. We were in Douglas before we could start looping back to town. By which time they had parked the fire truck and there were no official obstructions.
Shopping concluded, leaving town was our next trial. Civic excitement is rare in our little town, so everyone had to take a long look at the … what? Fire? Crime scene? False alarm? One of the rubberneckers was riding a bicycle. We were behind him, trying to drive at 1 mph. As soon as we (finally) got around him, someone pulled out of a side street, slowed down to about 10 mph. Directly in front of us. We crawled home. Karma is.
Groceries unpacked. Television turned on. Surprise! Half our premium channels aren’t working. “Temporarily Off the Air. Try Again Later.” I call Charter. They’ve been having a bad week too and this is my third call in two days. Any day I have to call Charter is not a great day.
After a long hold, the agent assures me they are merely doing (more) repair work, but hope it will be finished any day now. They’ll call when it’s finished. Maybe even today. I go to make dinner and step in a pool of dog pee. I don’t know which of the little furry menaces did it, but I don’t get it. Why? They’ve got their own door and it isn’t even raining.
Eventually, dinner having been served, eaten, and cleared, the phone rings. Charter (recorded message) says “Repairs are complete, thank you for your patience.” But it is not fixed. Half the hi-def channels are “Temporarily Off the Air. Try Again Later.”
Any day on which I have to call Charter once is not great. Twice? Very bad. They tell me to reboot. They send a repair signal. My channels do not come back. They can’t get a tech here until Thursday. I am grumpy, but make the appointment. I need to write it down, so I turn on the light.
The bulb explodes.
My day is done.
Warning: This is a rerun — with editing — but it so precisely fits the requirements of today’s Daily Prompt: Discussion Enders, I could not resists doing a little revision and posting it. I quite like this little post. It makes me laugh every time I read it so maybe you will laugh too. We all need a laugh.
As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place. I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).
I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will make movies I like, though occasionally they release something I love (like “Quartet,” a movie Dustin Hoffman directed in 2012). I’ve stopped trying to adopt new music and most new television shows.
I’ve renounced trying to figure out what’s going on with the Red Sox.
Some stuff gave me up. Some people gave up on me Other things, I gave up more or less voluntarily. In the end it works out to the same result.
When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was for religious reasons.
No one ever asks me what I mean by that. But just so you know, here’s my secret … obviously a secret no more …
I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. No one wants to offend me by asking for the details of my religious beliefs. Who knows? They might turn out to be embarrassing or merely bizarre. Thus my all-purpose answer to everyone is “on religious grounds,” “for religious reasons,” or “my spiritual adviser required it.”
What power these words hold. They can make pretty much any conversation vanish without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.
It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!” 99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.
Because I’m fine. For religious reasons.
As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place.
I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).
I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will produce movies I like, though sometimes, much to my delight and surprise, they release something I like a lot (remind me to tell you about “Quartet,” the movie Dustin Hoffman directed last year). I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows.
Some stuff gave me up. Other things I gave up voluntarily, but in the end it comes out the same.
When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was on religious grounds.
No one has yet asked me what I mean by that. But just so you, my faithful readers, know the secret …
I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. Since no one wants to offend me by asking about my religious beliefs, I can make pretty much any conversation go away without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.
It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!”
99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.
I’m fine. For religious reasons.
Mr. Ben Huberman, what were you thinking when you posted today’s Daily Prompt? Was this a test? To see how many of us knew what you are talking about? Well, guess what? I failed.
I don’t know Alanis Morissette from a hole in the wall. I don’t know if he is a she, or maybe a they, and what “the classic” refers to — a book, movie, or music?
A thing that happens as we age is we lose contact with, and interest, in pop culture. It starts early, as early as ones 30s when you realize you don’t like the music. By your 40s, you don’t care who knows it and drop any pretense of caring about “the latest thing.” Movies and some television may go the distance … but Alani Morissette didn’t make my cut.
In protest and because I think putting up a prompt of which more than an entire generation may well have no knowledge or interest is rude, I’m just going to link this post, which I think is pretty good, to the Daily Prompt.
If today’s prompt was an attempt to exclude me, get rid of me, it didn’t work. On the other hand, if Mr. Huberman is merely incredibly insensitive and out of touch with the people who follow these prompts, many (most?) of whom are not kids or even young … maybe it’s time to find someone else to do his job.
Because this isn’t merely incompetent. It’s bad manners.
I hear a lot of bitching about aging. While getting old ain’t fun, NOT getting old is worse.
Age brings financial limitations, aches, pains, and indigestion. On the positive side, it brings an end to commuting, doing whatever your boss tells you because you need the paycheck, and never having time for yourself. Regardless, whatever the limitations, being alive offers significant advantages over being dead which, to the best of my knowledge, is the only alternative to growing old.
I think we are most afraid of age when we aren’t old yet, but see it coming. Most of the bewailing and bewhining about getting old comes from people in their forties and fifties who are old enough and would like to just stop this aging nonsense. Can’t things just stay as they are?
Unfortunately, no. Nothing ever stays the same. As soon as you think you’ve got a handle on it, life moves on.
The good news is the fear of getting old is worse than being old.
When you get to whatever age you have defined as officially “old” (probably when you sign up for Social Security and Medicare), old turns out to be a continuation. It’s not something brand new. There’s no sign saying “Welcome to Old, a really BIG town.”
Many of my friends and family died younger than I am now. A lot younger. There’s damned little point in agonizing about what might happen. Worry doesn’t change anything, but sure does suck the joy out of the here and now. The worst part of all the stressing over possible future disasters is we worry about the wrong stuff. Inevitably, what actually happens isn’t what we worried about. It’s something we never expected, for which we are totally unprepared.
Someone said that in this secular age, worry has taken the place of prayer. I don’t know whether or not prayer was ever effective at preventing bad stuff from happening, but I’m sure worry isn’t.
In the long haul — if you’re lucky enough to have a long haul — there will be enough real problems to keep you busy. You don’t need to worry about stuff that may never happen. Figure out what to do about the crisis when and if it happens. Otherwise, enjoy what you can.
I gave up worrying. Life has been hard and I’m more than a little surprised I’m still here to write this. At some point, I decided I didn’t need an extra layer of stress. Life was already dumping on me.
I recommend living in the moment. It’s better. Try it. You’ll see.
I don’t mind getting old. I resent being sick and hate being poor. On the positive side, I’m alive to complain about it. A lot of folks I used to know cannot say the same. They can’t say anything. That’s the down side of being dead.
Getting old, with all its hazards, will always beat getting dead.